Marcedes Lewis is in Honolulu this week as the starting tight end for the AFC Pro Bowl team, a place where many envisioned he would eventually be when he was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft.
Lewis arrived in Jacksonville following a standout career at UCLA where he took home the coveted Mackey Award as a senior, given to the nation's top tight end. The early questions about Lewis concerned his ability to block at the NFL level. He took all those questions to heart and made the perceived weakness his strength.
The top three single-season rushing totals in franchise history have come with Lewis on the line. His former college teammate, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, has been voted to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons.
"When I run block that sets up other stuff," Lewis said. "Whether I'm blocking or catching the ball, it doesn't really matter to me."
Lewis said at the beginning of the 2010 season that he was going to lead by example and was ready to take his game up a notch. He stayed in Jacksonville for the entire offseason program, avoiding the flights back to the West Coast to visit family.
His work was rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl to be among the NFL's elite. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio had an inkling it could be a special season for Lewis, telling anyone who would listen that Lewis was "the most dominating player at training camp."
"It's awesome for him, it's good for us," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. "He had a great year and he did things the right way, a very mature and talented guy but he's really worked at his game, at all aspects of his game; being a blocker, being a receiver, being a leader on this football team."
Lewis led the Jaguars with a career-high 10 touchdown receptions along with 58 receptions for 700 yards. The 10 receiving touchdowns tied a single-season franchise record and were the most in a career by a Jaguars tight end.
There was an obvious emphasis on getting Lewis involved in the passing game this year. He entered the season with a total of only seven touchdown receptions with no more than two in any season. He finished the season as the only player on the team with multiple receptions in all 16 games.
"Every year there is a different emphasis as far as what you're going to ask guys to do or what defenses are allowing," Jaguars tight ends coach Rob Boras said. "When you're playing at a high level you're more creative and you to continue to think of ideas to let guys get the ball.
"Marcedes was deserving to get the ball thrown to him, the plays he made and what he did by creating separation and getting open, you just have to keep finding ways to make sure he gets involved in the progression."
His talents will be on display Sunday for a national audience and as the first tight end in Jaguars history to play in the annual all-star game.
"It is great to see that his performance has been recognized by both his peers and the fans," Boras said. "He is not only a special player, but also a special person."